Notes: Pettitte getting in the zone

Notes: Pettitte getting in the zone

TAMPA, Fla. -- Andy Pettitte has said time and again this spring that he just wants to put the offseason distractions behind him and move on with his baseball career. Once again, he received support from the sellout crowd, which lavished upon him the loudest ovation of any starter announced on Friday, and once again, he did not disappoint.

The lanky lefty sat the Astros down in order in the first inning, and he took just four minutes to do so, before he hit a bump with the heart of Houston's order. Even then, Pettitte hunkered down to work through the mess.

"I know when Andy needs to get focused, he's able to get focused on what he has to do," manager Joe Girardi said. "Obviously, it's comforting to see him go out and throw like this, because you want all of your pitchers to be able to do this."

The game was scoreless in the top of the second and Pettitte hit his first batter, Geoff Blum, with a pitch that sent the Houston third baseman to first. Next came a well-placed curveball that left fielder Victor Diaz managed to hit hard enough for the gusting wind to take hold of and carry out of the ballpark for a 2-0 Astros lead.

Pettitte, in turn, settled in to issue a popout, a strikeout and a groundout consecutively to end the inning.

"From the get-go, from my bullpen [session] and from the first pitch of the game, it's kind of hard to explain, but I just felt good," Pettitte said. "Mechanically, everything just felt together; both sides of the plate and offspeed stuff was there."

The 6-foot-5 left-hander was tagged for a line-drive single to begin his third and final inning. Pettitte secured an out and allowed a second single before he reached his allotted pitch count and was hooked in favor of reliever Edwar Ramirez. All told, Pettitte (0-0, 3.82 ERA) worked 2 2/3 innings, scattered three hits, fanned two and was charged with two earned runs.

Best of all, Pettitte said, it feels like he's finally caught up to the rest of the team in terms of physical conditioning.

"I felt strong today and my legs felt real good, so I don't see any reason why I wouldn't be able to continue to progress," he said. "I'm just real happy, after how bad I felt in my [first] start that ... I really felt good from pitch one today."

Spring Training
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Go, go, Godzilla: Hideki Matsui is "really close" to his spring debut, Girardi said on Friday. The outfielder has been rehabbing a surgically repaired right knee throughout the exhibition season, and neck stiffness caused him to take a break earlier in the week. This time though, the Yankees' skipper had good news about his outfielder.

"Early next week," Girardi answered, when asked when fans could expect to see Matsui suit up.

Girardi said Matsui has done everything he needed to do in order to test out his knee, which included running the bases at full speed on Thursday. Matsui reported no problems.

Matsui will start off in the DH role for a few games before he moves to the outfield, and after that, the sky's the limit.

"I'll talk to [head trainer Gene Monahan] and see how he reacts to a couple of days of DHing," Girardi said when asked of the return process. "We'd hope by the end of the next week or maybe early the following week."

Here's the question: Pettitte has a winning record with at least 15 starts in each of his 13 seasons in the Majors. Only one other pitcher in Major League Baseball history can brag the same feat to start his career. Can you name him?

Bombers bits: Shelley Duncan went 0-for-3 on Friday and was unable to add to his already impressive American League-leading RBI total (nine), yet the Yankees' 28-year-old first baseman still is hitting .500 this spring. ... Yankees owner George Steinbrenner stood on his suite balcony during the seventh-inning stretch and earned a round of applause from the sellout crowd at Legends Field.

And the answer is ... Cy Young had winning seasons with at least 15 starts in the first 15 consecutive years of his pitching career, which spanned 1890-1904, and included tours of duty with Cleveland (Spiders, 1890-98), St. Louis (Perfectos, 1899-1900) and Boston (Americans, 1901-04).

Coming up: The Yankees remain at Legends Field, where they'll face the Rays in a Saturday matchup at 1:15 p.m. ET. Right-hander Mike Mussina (0-0, 18.00 ERA) is scheduled to toe the bump for New York, and Tampa Bay will counter with righty Matt Garza (0-0, 10.80).

Dawn Klemish is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.